Looking at the Explorers
The Explorers are coming off a blow out win over Simon Gratz 42 - 15 last weekend. In the matchup, the offense shined once again and proved they are one of the best in the state. Offensive coordinator Ryan Doyle used all of La Salle's weapons both on the ground and through the air. Chris Ferguson opened up the ball game on the Explorers second possession with an 80 - yard touchdown pass to Winston Eubanks. Ferguson finished with 129 yards completing 8 of 11 passes while Eubanks finished with 96 yards with 3 catches. Not just Eubanks, but Ferg used up Headan, Rinella, Madden, and Trainer. Look for this week to be a pass heavy game with Eubanks and Headan getting alot of reps. With the running game, Syaire Madden ran for 174 yards and two scores. Furthermore, La Salle really worked the ball well all around. Rinella and Madden proved to be almost unstoppable for Gratz on the ground and even in the air on screens. Whatever Gratz tried to throw at them, La Salle would just use another option and get around them. This week, however, is going to be another challenge. Parkland has a very solid line and secondary with a handful of talent in the middle of the field making it a headache for any run heavy team. Look for the Trojans to lock down to middle of the field come Saturday and try to force the Explorers to into desperation. The offensive line of Morrissey, Schutta, Garvin, and McCracken shut down Gratz and will need to do it again this week. In all, the Explorers will need to utilize Madden and Rinella on screens, Eubanks and escpeically Headan in the air, and also Isaiah Jones on QB scrambles. Look for La Salle to go "all in" on offense with some big plays.
The Explorers defense once again shined like they have been all year. Against Gratz, Sr. Nick Rinella proved once again to be the great all around player that he is. He was all over the ball on defense, swatting away 2 or 3 crucial balls in the air that quite possibly could have gone for touchdowns had they had been caught. Furthermore, right off the bat on Gratz's second possession, Rinella chased down the Bulldog's QB on a scramble, catching up to him from nearly 20 yards back, and stripping him at the Explorer 1 yard line forcing a touchback and setting La Salle up for their first score of the game. Rinella also recovered a fumble in the second half. At the line, La Salle shut Gratz down. The likes of Anthony Piscopo, Toph Maloney, and Ryan Schutta literally obliterated the Bulldog's o-line. Maloney ended up finishing with a career high 3 sacks in the win.
Looking at the Trojans
Parkland is coming off a fantastic win over Wyoming Valley West 63-21 last weekend. So far this season, the Trojans are 12 -1 only giving up 57 points in their last 6 games. They are led by Sr. Quarterback DeVonte Cross who threw for 135 yards on 5 of 8 passing and ran for 168 yards on 11 carries and finished will 4 total TDs (2 passing, 2 running). Cross led Parkland to an unheard of 35 point second quarter in which they scored 5 touchdowns in the last 7:04 of the half. At tailback, the 5'9'' 185lb senior, Erik DiGirolamo added 107 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown to add to the 63 points Parkland put up. At recievers, the Trojans carry some size. They have Sr. 6'4'' Zack Post, 6'4'' Jr. Zach Bross, 6'5'' Sr. Kenny Yeboah, and 6'1'' So. Tyler Hays. Cross will have plenty of targets in the air and plenty of size to throw to. As the great La Salle secondary that the Explorers have, they will likely force Parkland to run a lot. Look out for both Cross and DiGirolamo to take off and carry most of the weight for the Trojans.
Parkland's defense also played a strong game. The Trojans allowed just one offensive touchdown with their regulars on the field. They scored twice on defense, with Jahan Worth (MLB) scooping up a fumble and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown on Wyoming Valley West's first offensive snap of the second half. Look for the Trojans to try to lock down the middle half of the field against the Explorers and force them outside most of the time.
After looking at both of these two very talented teams on paper and on film, they both deserve to be #1 and #2 in the state. This week, Parkland will try to use their size on offense and ability in the air to overpower the Explorers and will try to out run the defense. I have the slightest feeling that just won't work, though. The Explorer defense is a tough one and will hold the Trojan run game and shutdown the air game. Ferguson and Madden will team up again and utilize all parts of the Explorer offense to get around the Trojans. Come Saturday night, La Salle will be advancing the the semi-finals. I have it with La Salle on top, 35- 27.
Be sure to come out to Northeast High School on Saturday at 1:00pm for the PIAA AAAA State Quarterfinal matchup. Can't be at the game? Follow along with live updates from @LaSalle_Sports on twitter. Check out the La Salle Football - "Crashing the Party" video at the top of the page by Christopher Sanders.
- Christopher Sanders
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